‘We are not at the bottom of the pile’: Transnet and freight body hit back at index that SA ports are the worst in the world

Published Jun 11, 2024


Transnet Port Terminals and the South African Association of Freight Forwarders (SAAFF) have criticized a report by the World Bank and rating agency S&P.

Last week, the World Bank and S&P Global Container Port Performance Index (CPPI) for 2023 said that Cape Town’s port and the Port of Ngqura in the Eastern Cape were the worst-performing and least competitive ports for the 2023 period.

The report looked at the 405 ports globally and noted that South Africa’s ports dominated the bottom of the rankings.

The index ranked the Port of Durban at 399. The KwaZulu-Natal port is the largest in the country and handles almost half of SA’s port traffic.

Transnet and SAAFF have called the report out and said it is flawed and riddled with inaccuracies.

The organisations said that the index was limited in its focus and missed a large number of boats.

SAAFF CEO Juanita Maree said at the SAPICS logistics conference on Monday that South Africa’s ports were by no means “at the bottom of the pile”.

She argued that SA’s ports should be ranked much higher.

“The CPPI rated our ports as the lowest in the world (but) we have a different view to that because we use different data sets,” she explained

“We are not at the bottom of the pile. Yes, we have not invested over the last 30 years in port infrastructure, but when we analyse the data (from SAAFF), we see that we are in the region of 250 to 280,” she added.

Transnet said that there were several factual errors contained in the report.

Moreover, the organisation raised that with the World Bank and S&P.

“The World Bank itself does not guarantee the accuracy of the data in the report. Our concern is that this report can be positive if accurate but very damaging if inaccurate, and therefore, we believe strongly that it needs to be addressed," Transnet said in a statement.

Transnet said that it is still reviewing the report.

There needs to be context

SAAFF researcher Jacob van Rensburg admitted to IOL News that there needs to be context on the performance of South Africa's ports. 

"Our boat performance is bad we have done way worse than we have done in various previous years. We are at least in terms of productivity 25% below where we should be," he explained. 

"So if we just think about the global average of gross container moves per hour, that’s around 23 and a half. In South Africa, at least in Durban we are doing about 60% of the volume, we did about 15 to 16 moves per hour per crane which is bad."

He acknowledged that South Africa's performance is not where it should be, however, it is by no means the worst in the world especially if SA can set the volumes that we currently still handle. 

Specifically on the methodology of the World Bank, van Rensburg argued that there are a few issues that create a bit of uncertainty and a lack of clarity. 

"The first thing is their integrity, so if we just look at the total number of port calls versus their data set. Transnet had 702 vessels calling at Durban last year for instance but according to the World Bank's data set there were only 499 vessels," he said. 

The top three ports in the world

According to the World Bank/S&P report, the best port in the world is the Port of Yangshan in China. Coming in second was the Port of Salalah in Oman.

The third best port in the world is the Cartagena Port in Colombia.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the report said that the Port of Berbera and Port of Mogadishu in Somalia were the best performing and ranked them 103 and 176, respectively.